We all crave a whole-hearted life, rich with passion, joy and fulfillment. But often the area where we stumble the most is an area of our life that involves the most significant investment of our time — our work. Why is it that for those of us who want to launch our own business and create the life we desperately desire, we often get "stuck" in a wave of procrastination-filled, excuse-laden, delay-tactic-avoiding, it’s-all-too-hard paralysis?
For many of us, building a business is a reflection of our passions, goals, desires, creative instincts, and natural strengths. It’s where we stretch our minds, engage with like-minded people who inspire and motivate us, gain confidence in our abilities, allow flexibility into our schedules for other things that are important to us, and receive satisfaction in the knowledge we’re having an impact. (Oh, and yeah, earning enough money to lead a comfortable existence is an added bonus!)
Here’s the thing: If you don’t nurture and take care of your dreams of starting your own business, then you’re not allowing yourself to blossom into the person you want to be.
Here’s some advice to break through the emotional barriers that are stopping you from embarking on your business and creating a fulfilling and rewarding life:
1. Challenge your self-limiting beliefs.
It surprises me when I speak to talented, articulate, smart, would-be-entrepreneurs who start their first sentence with “but.” As in: “But I don’t know anything about business,” or “But I don’t know where to get clients,” or “But I don’t know how to create a website” … and so on. Why do we focus on what we don’t have instead of focusing on what we do have?
In my experience, most would-be-entrepreneurs know a lot more than they realize. In the areas where you may not have a lot of experience, what you don’t know you can learn — and you learn faster by doing. Start with the knowledge and skills you have now and keep building upon that foundation as you build your business.
You can always create an advisory board of trusted friends and mentors who can advise you on topics you don’t understand, whether it be accounting, sales, IT development or manufacturing. But until you believe in your own value, skills and potential, your business ideas won’t have the nurturing and support they need to grow and succeed.
2. Push yourself out of your comfort zone.
Never more does the fear set in when you see your name out there in bright lights, whether it means putting up a website, publishing an article you authored, or selling the product you created. All of sudden you feel exposed. You hold your breath. You have that sinking feeling … Uh-oh. What’s everyone going to think?
The only way to get over this angst is to get comfortable with feedback from those around you, whether they're your potential business partners, peers, investors or customers. Allowing yourself to be vulnerable to feedback, while nerve-wracking, will ultimately give you guidance to improve your product or service, a sense of accomplishment for what you’ve done right, and the confidence to move forward.
If you’re creating a product, make a rough prototype early on, show your family and friends and get feedback before the product is "perfect." There is nothing worse than spending a lot of money on something that no one wants and realizing too late because you were too embarrassed to show it in a less-than-perfect format.
If their reaction is negative (your worst fear), then let your defenses down and really listen to what they have to say. Remember they are not judging you or your abilities, but rather, they are trying to help you. Take that feedback and try again. Nine times out of ten it will only make your product better.
If your business involves building your personal brand, don’t focus on your fear of judgment, but instead on what you can do to improve your offering. Set up your social media accounts, begin following the influencers in your space, make comments and share content with them to boost your profile.
Get your website up, dust off your bio and upload an amazing photo — one that makes you feel great. Publish that article and share it with your friends on social media. Get comfortable with other people’s perceptions of you, even if that means reading the good and bad comments on Facebook or elsewhere! Every business at the beginning is a "work in progress" and so the sooner you embrace both positive and negative reactions, the sooner you can refine your business plan, improve it, and move forward toward your goal.
3. Don’t “network,” but do build authentic relationships.
I often hear from would-be-entrepreneurs: “I don’t know the right people to make this happen.” We all need a support network to advance our business ideas but if you’re like me and cringe at the idea of going to a "networking" function then here’s my advice: Don’t. It’s not about the quantity of your connections, but the quality.
Reach out to individuals who you're genuinely interested in getting to know and who make you feel comfortable. Only go to events that you think you’ll actually enjoy, because if you like your surroundings, chances are you’ll be more at ease and approachable to others. Don’t introduce yourself to people with a pitch, but ask about them and find common interests first and only then explain what you are trying to do.
Building a deeper connection with potential business partners will be more rewarding for both of you personally and professionally. You’ll be surprised how these connections can turn into true and trusting friendships and how they will become some of your biggest supporters down the road.
4. Value your own time.
I see this most often in female entrepreneurs, less so men. You spend all your time essentially providing business services … but don’t actually charge anyone for them! You say to yourself, “Oh, I’m just learning still, so I don’t want to charge yet,” or “They wouldn’t pay for that, it’s nothing!" (Even if it took you a long time to do it).
So here’s my advice: STOP giving away things for free. If your product or service isn’t valuable, they wouldn’t take it. They’d either ignore your advice (if a service) or throw it in the trash (if a product). But if they’re not doing that, then there’s value. Charge them accordingly. And if after that, you still find you can’t charge an appropriate fee, then maybe its time to rethink your business plan. There is no harm in going back to the drawing board and testing new (and even better) ideas.
5. Surround yourself with like-minded people.
Sometimes all we need is a little motivation. It’s easy to be swayed by the naysayers who are staying safely on their side of their fear, but happy to knock you when you step out of yours. Why not ignore them and surround yourself with people who are doing the same?
You can meet your tribe by networking authentically (refer to #3), asking friends to introduce you to others who are doing similar things to you, or joining forums and groups that look both interesting and seem like a good match for your business goals. I guarantee they’ll be a great source of inspiration and support (and the perfect people to get a recommendation for that web designer/accountant/photographer).
Now it's your turn. What's worked for you? I'd love to hear from you.